Sweet potato vine as houseplant? Will it die?

angiepangieJuly 19, 2013

I rooted a sweet potato vine cutting from my front flower bed. I'd like to pot it up and make it into a houseplant, but I have heard they don't last very long and die after a few short weeks. Is this true? I'd like to have one in my house all year long. Then I could take cuttings and root them for my front flower bed instead of having to buy them each year. any one have any exp with this?

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Last spring I left a sweet potato on the kitchen counter. 6 or so weeks later, baby sprouts grew.
And grew. And grew.

I placed in a bright window, 'water' but once the stems grew 10" or taller, they'd lean.

Pic of young sweet potato w/some growth

I got tired plucking leaning stems, so once temps were warm enough, I planted outside.

SP might live longer in direct sun, but I think it's annual. Doesn't hurt to experiment.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 4:33PM
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Mine were store bought vines, not grown from sweet potatoes, although I remember my mom using sweet potatoes and vines running all over the walls!

I think it is an annual too- but if it is the house all year long, how does it know when its season is over with no change in temperature or light, etc?

I have heard the ones you root from kitchen potatoes, will grow more potatoes in the ground that you can eat.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 4:39PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

SPV is not an annual, and is hardy in the ground here over winter. In the house, it gets spider mites and whiteflies when I've tried to bring it in. You could let frost kill the foliage, then store the potatoes, (which you should find in the pot,) like one would Canna rhizones, elephant ear bulbs, Gladiolus bulbs in a cool basement or garage, still in the same pot if you want. If you don't have a basement or garage, you could remove everything at the soil line when you bring it in. Hopefully the new foliage would be free of pests, but that's not a guarantee.

I also kept some cuttings in water on a windowsill, but they use water very quickly. If you try that, check them often.

Which one do you have?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 10:05AM
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Angie..So, your SP is ornamental? Would you happen to know its type?

What color and shape are leaves?

If you have ornamental sweet potato, Purple's right..It will live..out and indoors..but, if not given appropriate conditions as a house plant, it will attract spider mites.

Where are you located? Or what's your zone?
Also, do you have a photo?

Hey Purple. SPV is an annual here..No matter if it's edible sp or ornamental.

If one lives in a warm climate, ornamental sp's are hardy. I don't know about store-bought potatos.

A few stores carry osp and sp seeds. Packets are marked annuals. 'For IL'
Ornamentals left in the garden over winter are goners. So, I'm guessing location makes a difference. Toni

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 10:42AM
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we are in OK and the winter here is pretty harsh. Here they are considered annuals.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 11:19AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Yes, that's what the garden zones are for, measuring average winter low temps. I don't know what the cut-off point is for sweet potatoes, somewhere between here & there! A true annual is such no matter where it is grown.

AFAIK, the ornamental comes in the 'black' leaves, chartreuse, and a light green with white/pink edges. Are there any others? I have these 3 but the black one just doesn't do much for me.

Vines grown from the produce section are also ornamental, in the eye of this beholder. The leaves are dark green, heart-shape, and make flowers like morning glories, overnight also, like morning glories. It's perfectly easy to stick one in the ground or pot and enjoy whatever grows until frost, although growing them just for the flowers would probably disappoint, not at all the same show of a 'morning glory' vine.

Ornamental and 'edible' SP's are Ipomoea batatas. You can eat the potatoes from the ornamental ones if you want, I have, they're delicious. Morning glories are various other Ipomoeas.

The phrase 'considered annuals' is kind of a misnomer. 'Killed by winter' would be more appropriate. But instead of discussing semantics, I wanted to point out that 'considered an annual' is a clue that you've got a perennial that can't take cold. Most of them can be overwintered, and many make good house plants. Someone interested in saving one is probably interested in saving others... enable, enable.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 11:50AM
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They are very pretty plants and can live indoors. I have kept cuttings of my ornamental kinds for years

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 3:26PM
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They are very pretty plants and can live indoors. I have kept cuttings of my ornamental kinds for years

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 3:27PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

VGardenProject, can you explain how you kept your plant during the winter?

I grow all my tropical and summer plants in pots. All come into the basement in the fall. I give them a sip of water once a month. A sip is just enough water to dampen the top of the soil. In my pots that is about a half a glass of water in a 10" pot.

The area they are stored the temp is around 50 degrees. I bring in Cannas, EE, Banana plants a lot of succulents etc. I try to provide the environment that a plant would survive in its natural habit. Which would be cool temps and little moisture.

I have kept SP-vines alive using the above technique for years. If you have a rooted cutting I have done that by accident one year and it lived without bugs or problems in a glass of water all winter in a kitchen window.

I never get any bug problems in my house I think it is because I have steam heat. It is said we get bugs in the winter in northern homes because of the dry warm conditions because of forced air furnace heating. That is not the condition with steam heat.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 12:12PM
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MARQUEST...Hi!! Welcome back. It's been a long time.
Hope you and your family are well. It's great seeing you.

Marquest, regarding over-wintering plants in your basement. There's one thing you didn't mention. 'if you did I didn't see it.'

Light. Do your plants get light while in the basement, and if so, natural or artificial?

What type of banana do you have? Tropical or hardy?

Anyway, great seeing you again, don't be a stranger.

Purp.. Batatas is pronounced like potatoes in Italian.

I once had black leaf SP, 'Blackie,' but it didn't do much either. It wasn't getting proper light for one, so it grew spindly.

Marquest, forgot to say..you're so lucky you have steam heat. I agree, steam is the best, less likely harming plants AND people. Toni

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 1:15PM
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I simply take cuttings, root them in water, plant them and treat them as regular houseplants. They like bright light and water them when dry

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 10:42PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Hi Toni, I missed out midnight plant talks but I could not take the "Soil Forum development" and I had to go away for awhile.

How have you been? How have the heat been treating you and your plants?

Marquest, regarding over-wintering plants in your basement. There's one thing you didn't mention. 'if you did I didn't see it.'

There are two windows. It is the only light they get.

I have tropical Siam Ruby Banana

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 5:08AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Marquest, you are one of my 'overwintering heroes!' Also so glad to see you here in HP forum. What a lot of great plants and info you have!

We also don't use the furnace, so the humidity is retained (the windows are always wet when we get up in the winter.) It really does make a huge difference for a lot of plants.

While outside here, SPV seems to be the focus of so many critters/pests, especially spider mites and white flies. Every time I pinch a piece to move elsewhere, it's always covered with ants. So I am probably bringing these things in from the jump-start, even if I think I have washed/rinsed the pieces. (Someone who has better vision might do a better job!) Any critters that might be on other plants (or in the soil as eggs) of so many plants brought inside, they are probably thrilled to find some SPV to go to.

It's also common to be able to open the windows a lot of days during winter, so that's probably another easy vector of infestation, especially white flies. (Every rose has its' thorn, huh?)

Angie, if you don't mind saying, what state are you in? (How long is winter there?) After just a few months, even a cutting will start to make a potato on its' roots. If your ground plant is too big to bring the whole thing in, you could find the potato(s) and put them in a fresh pot with foliage removed, to start fresh. That might also help avoid a pest issue, another option.

So many options, more than most plants. Cuttings in water, cuttings in soil, dig up whole plant, store potatoes dormant, start potatoes anew... maybe more, IDK. I love bulbs/tubers/rhizomes!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 10:04AM
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Morning All,

Marquest, Wish my Siam looked as gorgeous as yours.
It is amazing! So much red!

Things changed. I'm in bed before midnight now...wake between 6 and 7 am.
Are you still a night owl? lol

Aw, you know I live for summer and heat. Although I must admit it's been in the high 90's to 100...100 is a little too warm for me.
Still, I'm outside in the garden when neighbors are in their a/c homes and drive in their a/c cars.

BTW, your patio/deck is looking good. You must have been a busy beaver this spring. :) Toni

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 10:37AM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Toni, Purple, thank you. You both are to kind.

I whisper and knock on wood when I say I do not get bugs. I have been bringing my plants in and out for years and only one time a EE got some mealy I squirted the plant with some peroxide and sprinkled some baby powder on the leaves and they did not come back. Don't ask me why I sprinkled the baby powder. No one said to do that I had it in my hand so I sprinkled on them thinking maybe it would help to suffocate them. LOL

I do leave my plants out until I get a couple of frost which probably also kills a lot of bugs. I am good at throwing them out it is harder bringing them back inside. One year I did not move some of the plants until Jan. The top of the soil was frozen. I just knew they were dead but everything came back just fine.

I drag in so many plants every winter it was getting too much for my back. I had to cut down on something so I let all of the Brugmansias go and kept only one. I have to have my cannas, and some of the other plants to have the tropical look on the patio.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 12:34AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Now where can I find a really BIG hanging basket...? Guess I didn't get all of the 'ornamental' potatoes out of the ground here. On the right, above the chartreuse one, and going up the 'garden gate,' that's regular sweet potato from a grocery store potato.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 11:19AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

This has been a fine 'mama' plant. Last weekend for the 2nd time this year, I cut off all of the long stems, leaving 2 main crowns, and shared them with 2 people, stuck some pieces here'n'there in pots of my own.

Yesterday I relocated one of the (surprisingly small) potatoes and one of the the dug-up crowns (with about 50 ready-to-pop-new tips) to a new owner. If that crown had a potato, it was deeper than I wanted to go.

So, like this out-of-control ground plant, a potted house plant could be trimmed as much, as often as necessary so it doesn't get too jungle-like inside, should it be happy enough to grow like that.

So how's your plant growing, Angie?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 3:28PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hey, has anybody with this plant ever mysteriously gotten "poison ivy" without touching any? This plant has white, sticky, milky LATEX sap in it. That stuff is not confined to Euphorbias and Ficus, and apparently I'm allergic to it no matter what plant it's coming out of.

Please save yourself from any unintentional experimentation and wash well after coming in contact with the sap of this plant. Harmless unless you break open a stem or leaf, but if you do, don't touch your face in any way, and wash well, especially if the latex has dried, but I would really try to not wait that long.

After almost 3 years of trying to figure out what in the yard is giving me poison ivy periodically even though I know I have NOT touched any, I am 99.9% sure this is the plant giving me this rash. And I thought I'd washed well, and often, since I keep getting this, I've been washing like I have OCD because I didn't know what plant was doing it. In retrospect, I can remember taking cuttings of this a few days before getting this rash many of the times, and thinking that this was one plant I was pretty sure was NOT the culprit. Wrong!

It's certainly possible to make sure I don't come in contact with the sap anymore, and will scrub like a surgeon after handling this plant at all, 'cuz I'm miserably scratching my hand again, and this is the last time, unless/until I discover a new allergy. This sucks. Luckily I've got nothing that would make somebody say "ewww" on a google search of "latex dermatitis" images, but even these tiny spots that don't show up well enough to share a pic are making me crazy!

Bottom line, at least for me, if I ever see white sap in a plant, I need to go wash thoroughly, no matter what its' name is, or how cozy of friends I think I am with this plant. I would suggest the same to anybody who isn't sure they are NOT allergic to latex sap. Don't let the box of disposable rubber gloves be your guide. I can wear those with no problem.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 11:18AM
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The one I had last year just exploded in all directions when put in the ground,..but this little thing has been indoors since it was an even tinier cutting.

It's been in a terrarium the whole time...is that cheating? lol

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 1:43PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I didn't notice this before, your pic, Asleep. That poor thing needs some room to make a potato!

And for the record, since I stopped letting the sap of this plant get on me, I haven't had any more "mysterious poison ivy!"

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 2:26PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

I do not know if age or being exposed so many times to poison ivy made me allergic. I could roll around in the stuff with no reaction everybody always asked me to come and cut their P-ivy because it did not bother me. Well one summer about 3 years ago I went about cutting mine as usual and I had such a bad reaction I was at the doctor's office swollen and oozing all over the place. LOL

Now if I walk past poison ivy I break out.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 3:56PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Repeated exposure, likely. Age, also guilty to "over 40." I can't pick figs anymore, and pretty sure the SPV didn't give me a rash at first, but really don't know. Between the figs and SPV, that's a lot of recent latex exposure the past few years for me.

DH said he used to be sensitive to PI but is not now (as I've witnessed in terror!) So sorry that happened! Like it was luring you in, all along... evil vine, urishiol oil!

I'm apparently allergic to some solanine or alkaloids also (too bored to read more, but I got the general idea why) I can get a rash from nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) and tomato leaves.

The epidermis is a mysterious thing. Just would encourage folks to wash after 'playing' with SPV!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 4:28PM
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Seems like the developers try to introduce a new leaf shape or colour every year. Some work out better than others and appeal differently to everyone. I've had the bronze a couple of times and enjoyed its hues, but it definitely did not cascade as well as margarita or sweet Caroline's green/chartreuse version. It was more mounding for me and it would have been nice to know that before planting. Oh well, gardening is about learning experiences!

Here is a link that might be useful: Sweet Caroline bronze

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 12:24PM
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If i remove the sweet potato will the vine still live? i didnt know what this plant was when i bought it as a house plant. when i went to re-pot it realized what it was at that time i had already removed the potato.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 1:09PM
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